Expect a world tour full of bright authentic flavors when you arrive at Les Cuistots Migrateurs, the socially-conscious restaurant of the Hasard Ludique cultural centre in the 18th arrondissement. Based on the concept that food is the great connector, Les Cuistots Migrateurs (slang for the migrants chefs) aims to change the way people view Paris’s migrant population through introducing them to their homeland cuisines. The restaurant offers a buffet selection of dishes at lunchtime and mezze-style small plates in the evening, all prepared by chefs whose origins span the globe from Syria and Iran to Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Senegal, and Chechnya.
The menus change daily, offering fresh, redolent salads and accompaniments, bursting with color and aromatic spices, such as Aloo Dum a warming potato dish from Nepal, a classic Syrian hummus with chickpeas, tahini and yogurt, and a refreshing Afghani salad of tomatoes, cucumbers red onion, and fresh parsley. They offer a meat and a vegetarian option as the plat de jour, and the day we dined we enjoyed a warming yellow split pea curry served with swiss chard and red peppers and a side of springy, nutty wholegrain rice. Desserts were generous and very rich, so much so that we regretfully could not finish them.
The building itself has a charming history, starting out life as the Gare Saint-Ouen train station over 130 years ago servicing the trains of the petit ceinture, the small rail line that used to run around the outer edge of Paris. Since the train line was decommissioned in the mid 1930s, the space was reimagined into a cinema, and then a homeware bazaar until it was bought back by the City of Paris in 2010 and made available to tender as a cultural project. The façade has been renovated to return it to its former glory as a train station, and in the rear, benefits from a vast terrace of over 100 seats that gives onto the old train tracks, making this an enviable outdoor space in the summer months that is open for drinks non-stop midday to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday.
LES CUISTOTS MIGRATEURS | 128 avenue de Saint-Ouen | Paris 18 | +33 1 48 31 34 36 | Métro: Porte de St-Ouen | Open Tuesday-Sunday | plat du jour 11€, 17.50€ 3-course lunch menu, 4-13€ mezze dishes in the evening | reservations not necessary | atmosphere casual.
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